The rule book deals with drowning and suffocation, but the cliffhanger of our latest session also has a few other issues the heroes will have to deal with — atmospheric pressure (from water) and decompression…

With their flying saucer sinking under the ocean, they have only a few turns to figure out how to get out of the craft…but in that time, the saucer has sank some distance. so that leaves them with a few issues to address:

The first, air. They should have time to hold their breath, but they will be exerting themselves early on. From the core rules,

“…your character can hold his breath for one minute per point of Body rating. In combat, your character holds his breath for one turn per success on a reflexive body roll. After this time passes, your character will be forced to take a breath and suffer the effects of whatever he breathes in. If he inhales water or thick smoke, for example, he will receive one nonlethal wound per turn until he is able to breathe normally. Your character cannot hold his breath again until he has had a chance to catch his breath.”

It will take several turns before they can exit the craft under the best of conditions. By the time they are out, the saucer will have sank between 100-200′ (between 30-600m-ish), with an increase of 1 bar/33′ or 10m…they could be exiting somewhere in the range of 9 bars of pressure.

So, rules for high atmospheric pressure and decompression:

Characters exposed to high atmospheric pressures will suffer 1 non-lethal in damage for every 3 bars of pressure (every 100′ or 30m of depth.) Also, holding one’s breath becomes more difficult at these pressures, as the lungs are not strong enough to fight the crush of the pressure. Holding your breath requires a Body+Will with the difficulty increasing one success for each 100′ of depth. (You can reflexively hold your breath without a check down to 100′) This damage only lasts as long as the  person is under pressure.

That said, rising or decompressing too quickly will cause the damage to remain and possibly worsen as the body cannot reabsorb nitrogen and other gasses released by the drop in pressure. This can be cured with safety stops and a slower ascent of about 30fpm to allow the body to adapt to the lower pressures, but in an emergency assent (as these characters will have to attempt), the character can ascend at speeds up to 100fpm. That still leaves two minutes for the characters. If the character has to surface at unsafe speeds, they will take 1 non-lethal in damage for every 100′ they have to ascent at faster than 60fpm.After the character has reached the surface, they must make a Body test versus the damage they took. If they fail the test, they take lethal damage equal to the number of failures in addition to the non-lethal they have.

(Example: Steve has to ascend from his crashed and sining seaplane. He was able to catch his breath before exiting the craft, but has to ascend 200′ to the surface before his breath runs out. He has 2NL in damage from the pressure, and has to roll a Body+Will vs. 2, and succeeds. He has a Body of 2 — he has two minutes, if he doesn’t exert himself, to reach the surface. He opts to rise as fast as he can, but it will still take all of his two minutes… The speed of his ascent means the damage will not got away on reaching the surface as he experiences “the bends”. He makes it to the surface, but is suffering from decompression sickness. He rolls his Bodyx2 vs. the 2NL and rolls a 1. He now has 2NL and 1L in damage, which will heal at the normal rates.)

Had Steve has a Body 3, he could have ascended slower, and risked a non-lethal or two for breathing water, but that pressure and drowning damage would have gone away once he could get to the air.